Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Once the first few scenes splashed across the screen, I instinctively sensed that I was in for a remarkable film experience.
And, when the lights went up after the credits crawled at the end, I wasn’t even embarrassed to be caught weeping openly in my plush seat at the CGV Theatre; after all, quite a few of the other filmgoers were sobbing, too!
The first few words that sprang to mind when I collected my senses?
Though the PR Staff at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival have been promoting the foreign film “Joyful Reunion” as a foodie flick, it is so much more than that, trust me.
The beautifully-crafted Independent feature sheds a mystical light on the mysteries of life - and in the process - exalts the human spirit.
The film starts off humbly enough.
The audience is first introduced to a handsome young couple (she, a host at an exclusive day spa; he, a computer game designer) who have been dating steadily in the picturesque city of Taipei.
One day, the young man - Zhang Quan – is asked to check on his dear Auntie who appears to be out-of-sorts emotionally.
He pops in one day out-of-the-blue and ascertains that the eccentric old gal might benefit from a brief stay with loved ones back home.
When the odd twosome arrive back in the bustling city, Zhang’s girlfriend – a stylish young woman by the name of Wa’er – arranges for a dinner at a high-end eatery owned and operated by her calm down-to-earth father.
At this juncture, Auntie reveals a crusty unpredictable side, which proves to be slightly embarrassing for her doting nephew.
For instance, one glance at the exotic menu, manages to trigger a wild unexpected outburst.
“$350 for one dish,” she blurts out, in disgust.
When Wa’er explains that each plate is painstakingly-prepared by hand – sometimes days well in advance of the dinner reservation – Auntie's scoffing continues.
For example - when the server arrives at the table and proceeds to enlighten the well-heeled guests about the ingredients in each dish, how the order was cooked, and what kind of nourishment the contents provide - she just about blows a gasket.
For Auntie, it’s a pain in the you-know-what, to have to sit through such nonsense.
She wants to dig in and chow down, without all the pomp and circumstance, thank you very much.
In one reflective moment, the talkative old gal casually mentions that when she was a young girl, her own father owned a restaurant which was quite successful in their region.
“Those clay pots he cooked with must be worth a fortune now, “ she conjectured, as her mind drifted off.
Wa’er and Zhang suddenly realize that a make-over might do a world of good for the elderly woman who appears to have let her physical appearance go.
Her frizzy, curly locks are a fright, for example.
The next day she is presented to the staff at the exclusive spa where Wa’er works - and they begin to work their magic - right away.
Within hours, there has been a miraculous transformation – so much so, in fact – that Auntie is upbeat, in the mood to socialize, and pining to dance once again.
In one of the most hypnotic scenes in the movie, Auntie – who is now dressed-to-the-nines and in high spirits - is led around the ballroom floor by a handsome young dance instructor she instantly becomes enthralled with.
Even the onlookers at the chi chi club are quite taken with - and surprised by - her marvelous style.
Then, an unexpected turn of events turns everything upside-down.
The young lovers have a spat, the restaurant owner contemplates the sale of the eatery for some mysterious reason, and Auntie has an unexpected vision or two which trigger memories from a dark period of her life during the War.
Her past begins to haunt her!
Suddenly, all the pieces magically fall into place, and the sun shines through.
An amazing secret is revealed!
Ah, but I won’t spoil it for you.
According to the festival organizers, "Joyful Reunion" is a follow-up to Ang Lee's memorable and well-received "EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN".
In this feature, Director Tsao Jui-yuan has weaved a remarkable tale that leaves audiences speechless and literally spellbound!
Catch it if you can when it plays at a movie theatre near you.